Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Design Thinking in Action

After going through a design-type process to redesign what learning looked like across two of our learning commons (see post here) with 3 other teachers, we decided to use this process with some of our students when we came to the project phase of our learning.

Theme: Effective Communication  

With our theme in mind, we immersed our students in a world they may not have encountered before. For six weeks, we (teachers in learning common 1 & 2) offered a range of workshops with this theme in mind.  Workshops had mini themes each week including:
- working in a team
- spoken language looking at debating and public speaking skills
- visual language (how do people communicate through art?)
- symbols and codes
- signs and media
- digital communication (through digital citizenship)
- animal communication 

Through these themes, we were able to offer a broad range of experiences and different ways people and animals communicate effectively.  We also had our students working with a range of people and ages as learning common 1 (year 0 - 2) & 2 (year 2 - 5) worked together. We had some great feedback from students, with many surprised with how well they were able to work with five year old - one of the initial issues learning common 2 thought they might encounter (check out this post about how our start went).  With the teachers involved, we planned each immersion session beforehand, making sure one teacher was roving and collecting evidence for students (taking photos) as we got students to complete a quick reflection (discussing their highlights/ challenges) after each workshop knowing at the end they would chose one area of particular interest and documenting this would help students to remember all of the exposure they had had (not just the last one they remembered). These reflections where put into folders and displayed for parents/ caregivers to share the journey (on the reflection sheet, we highlighted what curriculum areas where being covered).

After our six weeks of immersion, we broke off into our project phase. In learning common 2, we put students into two groups. One more supported group where given a lot more support in either continuing with some immersion-type activities or following a interested they had developed over the past six weeks.  The other group where taken through the design process:

To start this, I shared the process that we will be going through and the resources adapted from NoTosh to guide us through the journey.  


Identify: What is the issue?Our first step was to be "problem finders" (McIntosh, 2011: TEDxLondon: The Problem Finders). We identified some of the issues through the themes we had been immersed in. Students looked through their folders and had many discussion with other students to identify these issues.  After identifying these issues, students chose one they felt particularly passionate/ interested in.  At this point, there were lots of solutions being discussed - it was interesting to hear the groups who were fixed on one solution and thinking they had solved the problem - job done (not quite).

Finding Problems
Pairing the problems with the themes we explored during immersion
From here, students began to group together with others who had chosen similar or the same issue. Some students wanted to work on their own. We shared what issue we wanted to delve into and after many discussions about each issue, moved onto the synthesis part of the process.


First we developed a 'How Might We' statement. This would define our problem to be solved. Giving examples, students quickly developed their how might we statement then shared their statement for others to help refine. Groups where introduced to the so what, who cares questioning and the HAKRS critique protocol for this refinement. 

  • How Might We design a product for people to communicate with a deaf person at HPPS
  • How Might We design a product for student new to HPPS so they know what happens here
  • How Might We invent a way that helps people communicate with each other when in a team situation
  • How Might We design a product in order to help people learn a different language at HPPS 
  • How Might We invent an exciting way to teach Maori to students at HPPS
  • How Might We help kids at playtime who don’t have anyone at HPPS to play with
  • How Might We invent an effective way for people be able to communicate with animals

How might we framework
HAKRS Critique Protocol
Ideate: Generate as many ideas as you can
With our how might we statements refined, we could begin looking at potential ways to solve these problems. We stood up and came up with 100 ideas in 10 minutes.  From the way out to the easily 'doable', students spent the first couple of minutes on their own, then bought their ideas together.  We then went around read and added to groups ideas. 
Reading and adding to ideas from other groups.
We then looked at our ideas and circled the ones we thought would be best to solve our problem.


The 'doing' part! Students began to make quick versions of their solutions and gathered feedback from others.  Then refined and gathered more feedback.

We also had a dedicated wall for displaying our thinking. This has been a great talking point for students, teachers and parents where you can see the progress along the way. When groups have made changes, we made amendments and stuck it over the previous page.
Our design process journey
Launch Pad
We started this quite late and were unable to complete a lot of the solutions. Most groups have been working over the holidays with the idea that they will launch in February when the new school year starts. Over the holidays several groups have been emailing asking advice and giving me updates on their progress.  

So starting the new year, at HPPS we should have up and running a friendship seat; language rooms (including Te Reo Maori); website for deaf students at HPPS; induction website for students new to HPPS; regular lunchtime activities for students who may not have anyone to play with an much more...

- Students struggled with the idea of solving 'real world' problems. Although very creative with some of their thinking, some where quite unrealistic. Once groups started seeing that other groups where actually solving their problems, they jumped onboard.  
- Engagement: students where highly engaged with making a real difference in the world.  Our theme was around effective communication and being a new school, a lot of the problems groups had identified where to do with new students to Hobsonville Point Primary School. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Redesigning Learning

What is possible? What can learning look like? Is this the best for our students? These are some of the questions we (as teachers) are constantly asking ourselves and at the end of last term decided to really make the most of the skill set we had across two commons and combine the way we immerse our kids in a world they are unfamiliar with in preparation for our next block of learning.

Our first year we started with 36 students, 6 staff and 2 learning commons (year 0 - 3 and years 4 - 8). We taught in teams of 3 and by the end of our first year, we had grown in size and had staffing changes. Our second (current) year, we saw the need to open up another common.  We started with 3 commons (Common 1: year 0 - 2, Common 2: year 2 - 5, Common 3: year 5 - 8). Common 1 & 2 co-taught (with 2 teachers), while Common 3 team taught with up to 5 teachers as one time.  Each space has 35 - 40 students, the most we have had in a space.  So what is in store for next year? We have new staff on board and even more students.  Time to sit down and redesign what learning could look like.

Our school vision states that we value Collaboration, Relationships, Personalised Learning, Innovative Practice and Authentic Learning. So how are we living this out? At the end of term 3, the teachers in learning common 1 & 2 sat down for the day and looked at possibilities. We used a design thinking approach to solve x.

Identify: What is the issue?
We wanted to honour our school values and ensure we were offering the best opportunities for our learners.

Observe: Gathering information about the issue from observations and experiences
We started the day by immersing ourselves in what was already happening within the school.  We gathered information about the current teaching and learning by directly observing each learning common and interviewing students about their experiences.  We asked broad question such as:
- What does school mean to you?
- What works really well here?
- What’s one thing you’d change in your learning common?

Then we dug a little deeper with specific question such as:
- What was it like the last time you did (e.g. Maths, PE, developed a skill)....?
- Why would visitors to the school think that teachers planning the day is better?
- How does HPPS compare with your last school?
- What would your reply be to someone who asks "why do you plan your own day?"
- Describe a favourite learning moment...

Share: Working with others to better understand the issue
The responses were vast, but had common themes. Students valued the ownership they had over their learning, noting that it prepared them for the 'real world' when they have jobs and need to organise themselves.  They mentioned teachers were there to support their learning and guide them, not tell them what to do.  The mention of trips was loud and clear - they wanted to go out and experience the 'real world'.

Looking at the themes from our observations - we were armed with our Moonshot idea of how might we transform practice in our school in order to actively live our our school values of collaboration, relationships, personalised learning, innovative practice and authentic learning.  

Ideate: Generate as many ideas as you can
We then sat down and wrote down possibilities. With ideas flying, this was beautifully messy.  After our ideas were squeezed out, we filtered out what was not feasible  and developed a shared vision moving forward.

This is all about DOING. We quickly came up with ideas of how to immerse our students (5 year olds - 10 year olds) in our theme for the coming term of Effective Communication.

Critique - Refine
We get together most afternoons to discuss highlights and challenges during this process.  Already, three weeks in we have made changes to what we are doing to refined and remix to suit our learners. We have had great feedback from our students, with many surprised by how they work with one another regardless of age and ability is not a factor.  We have seen our learner dispositions really shine as collaboration and relationships being the driving force behind our immersion. Although it has at times been challenging, messy and tiring, the outcomes we are seeing with our students have been rewarding and reinforce why we are doing what we are doing.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is E(ffective) Learning?

Framework for Learning
The NCREL, enGauge 21st Century Skills is the guiding framework for our phases of learning. Instead of each term having a new topic/ proverb, we have broken up the year into three phases where we will explore a range of "21st Century" skills: Innovative thinking, digital-age literacy and effective communication.

Block One: Innovative Thinking
Provocation: If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place...
Lisa Squire discusses how project-based learning can engage learners and honour student voice. In Learning Common 2, we started by immersing our learners in a range of experiences relating to innovative thinking. We documented much of this process through our weekly common blog. We wanted the students to experience how people design products and the processes they can use and apply to their own products. First we immersed them through a series of experience including:
- Visiting to The Mind Lab where we explored robotics through making rodent traps and simple how simple circuits work through making music using a MaKey MaKey kit and programming via Scratch,
- Tim from Mindkits came in and showed us how easy it is to programme a robot,
- Visiting Hobsonville Point Secondary School where some students had a master class with Steve Mouldey (Robotics) and Pete McGhie (Cooking),
- Ria from Learning Common 3 took a master-class in programming robots using lego mindstorm,
- students grew and cooked from the school garden,
- Sharyn and Daniel lead cooking master-classes.

As you can see from the immersion activities, we were going down two roads: robotics and cooking. In the beginning, we didn't plan this path, but through our students showing interests in these areas, we delved deeper and deeper. Students began branching off into these groups and then grouped to investigate our provocation. Erin and I researched around project-based learning and found some key readings to help with the process:
- Buck Institution for Education PBL Resources
- Edutopia: Project Based Learning
- Seven essentials for Project Based Learning
- Project Based Learning Explained

Through our research we shared with our learners the design process (including a planning sheet and criteria) for their invention. 

The groups where created and the students began planning their projects.  Erin and I divvied up the groups and helped them gather resources and further learn what they needed for their inventions. We had regular (daily for some groups) check-ins with the notes from these conferences emailed home to parents. We had a range of projects including walking beds, solar powered go karts and several different themed restaurants, cleaning robots, baby helper robots and a house that had a moving floor.  

Reading, writing, maths and everything in between were centred around their projects - what did they need to be successful?  Having our check-ins meant we could be responsive to their needs. 

As part of the process, we knew we were going to share this learning. Early on when the process was shared, we discussed the possibility that some groups may not have a product at the end as they may go back and forth between the first couple of steps (generating ideas, research, testing).  We discussed the importance of being able to share this learning.  Some groups documented their journey along the way, some groups chose to do this in the final week.  All had a presentation to share with their families when it came to our celebration of learning evening. 

Wonderings/ reflections
- Very product driven process;
- 1 - 2 prototypes created - what would have happened if they had created several and had a lot more feedback around this process;
- Saturation: our kids lived and breathed their projects for 4 - 5 weeks - was this too long?
- Kids were definitely interested in their projects, but I am not sure if they were that passionate about them - how can we nurture student passions?
- How much deep thinking was actually involved in these projects?

Block Two: Digital-Age Literacy
"At Hobsonville Point, I ask staff firstly to design learning, not plan. I ask them to think about the natural links between a big concept, the dispositions we want our students to grow and then create clear connections to the NZC learning areas" Daniel Birch posing the question are we being responsive?

With these wonderings/ reflections at the forefront of our mind, Erin and I took a slightly different approach and looked further into Design Thinking (what's the difference between PBL and Design Thinking?)

Ewan McIntosh's ICOT'13 keynote shares the notion that we should be creating problem finders, rather than problem solvers and how can we teach just in time rather than just in case? The team at No Tosh have also been a rich source of information with Ewan McIntosh's Digital Media and Learning Blog and Tom Barrett's The Curious Creative.

We have also checked out The D. School out of Stanford the IDEO and the Nueva Design Thinking Institue all with a vast collection of resources. Hobsonville Point Secondary School has also been a huge source of inspiration. Claire Amos discusses this concept, including an Introduction to Design Thinking. Steve Mouldey shares his experience of problem finding and student ownership.

So with all this in mind, we go forth to co-design a beautifully messy thinking this space!
Provocation: When I see you through my eyes, I think we are different. When I see you through my heart, I know we are the same.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Edwins: Relationships & Ownership

Who doesn't love a few great eduwins! Check out a couple of the latest from LC2:

Building Relationships:
We have been lucky enough to work with Margaret Thorsborne discussing restorative practice and exploring ways in which a relational approach can be taken to managing behaviour. This was reaffirming and a timely reminder of some of the strategies that can be used. The way we started the day was sharing how the start of the day was going for us. It was interesting to hear from people in the room how their mornings had been leading up to coming to school. It was a great reminder that we all lead busy lives and events both within our control and beyond our control can shape the day we have. Spurring on the question 'how are our learners coming to school?' We started the next day in LC2 with this question. What we found was 80% of our learners were coming to school tired which lead to a conversation around what this might look like as the day went on e.g at lunchtime. We continued to start our day this way, asking how has your day started? How do you feel?  Taking this idea to another level, we married the idea of Twitter with this question. We developed a physical Twitter wall. We have 140 characters to write about how the start of the day is going.  It has been great to see the kids coming in, sitting around a table together discussing their mornings with one another.

Owning your Learning
Being able to articulate what has been going well and what has been challenging is vital in the learning process. This has been one of the focus' in Learning Common 2. How can we ensure students are critically thinking about their learning and see this as a journey rather than a destination?

Our learners are pretty competent at planning their own day, sticking to those plans however is a different matter.  With numerous discussions around the importance of prioritising what we need to do and negotiating what we want to do, it was also imperative for our learners to see what their learning behaviours looked like and the effects of the decisions that they make.  We have been getting our students to plan in reflecting time three times a week.  Here they discuss (in a range of ways including physically or digitally written and shared with adults, including parents) highlights and challenges they have faced and describe why they were a highlight or challenge.  This has been a great way for students to be honest about their learning - we encouraged complete honesty. Some wrote about how they had not stuck to their plan which resulted in them missing out on a crucial workshop. Others reflected on distractions around the room and their need to identify them earlier and move themselves. Through these reflections we have interesting conversations around setting realistic goals and prioritising. It has been great seeing students take further ownership over their learning and make positive changes towards reaching their goals *insert goal fish pond*.

Goal Fish Pond

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Work for me baby!

This post has been spurred on by a colleague who was working on my laptop and liked the way I had certain things set up. So here is a list of some things that make my life easier when working on both my laptop and with GAFE:

Although having a pretty image on your desktop is great to look at, for me it was't functional so I went an hunted for images that would organised my desktop.  I am a visual learner and found it frustrating trying to find files on my desktop.

This is what my desktop looks like now.  I have 4 categories (admin, elearning/ IT, Learning Common & in progress - files I am currently using/ needing).  Download image here and save as your desktop image.  I have also changed the icon's for my folders (search for icon sized images, right-click on folder, get info and drag and drop image where the file icon is).  I also have google docs that I use frequently as icons on my desktop (drag the URL onto your desktop and it will create an icon that you can rename).

Desktop Organiser Wallpaper:


More desktop organisers
Use your Google Calendar as your desktop wallpaper
Desktop organisation and how to customise your own

Inbox: Gmail
Making my inbox work for me rather than me working when I use my inbox has given me time back.

As you can see, I have no emails in my inbox - instead I use labels (which organise messages into categories) and filters (set rules for incoming messages) to sort out my emails. Some emails skip my inbox and go straight to the folder I have filtered them into (folder is shown in bold when a new message is there). Some come to my inbox and then I archive them when I have actioned it. I also only show some of my folders - those I do not use often only show if there is an unread email in it (tick show if unread).  Certain folders are colour coded so I can easily see who is involved in the messages.

Although this took a while to set-up (I had thousands of emails to label and archive), it was well worth the effort and now runs smoothly.  
Labs, Apps & Extensions
Here are some apps & extensions I can't live without:
If you haven't explored the labs under the settings in your Gmail, this would be my first stop.  Have a read and enable the ones you want.
Undo Send: get up to 30 seconds to undo a sent email.  Once this is enabled, you can go to your general settings and determine the send cancellation period (up to 30 seconds).

Streak: This is a customer relationship management tool but has a function that allows you to see if people have read your emails and how many times an email has been viewed.  You can also schedule when you want emails to go out.

Chrome Apps & Extensions:
Undo Close Tab: accidentally closed a tab? Use this extension to easily access closed tabs.
Buffer: great way to share content on social media, you can also analyse the content you are posting to see how many people it is reaching. Use the Buffer extension straight from your browser to send content to Buffer.
Pin It: pin straight to Pinterest
Word Cloud: Fan of Wordle? Summarise and share content of any website (either part or whole) in a word cloud.
QR Code Extension: using QR codes a bit, it's great having an extension that with a click of a button will generate the code.
OneFeed: This brings all your social media and news feeds to one place.  Customisable news feeds are great for following blogs, etc, but I often forget to go and check them.  With this extension, when you open up a new tab, instead of the default page being say, it is now your news feed. Customise it by editing the sources to follow your favourite blogs, blogs from your school or any other news source with either searching their data base or using the RSS feed URL (RSS Feed extension).

Presenting Zoom (Mac Only):
I can't live without this feature on my MAC being enabled.  It allows me to zoom in on part of my screen.  Great for when I am teaching students, especially when they ask questions like "where is that button"or you just want them to focus on part of a webpage.  It is also great for giving presentations and you need to zoom in to demonstrate something.
In your settings, head to accessibility
Then enable these functions:

Now when you hold down control and use 2 fingers to scroll, the screen will zoom in and out where the cursor is (you can change the particular settings to suit your usage). This takes a little while to get used to, but well worth using.

Customise Icon
You can use your own images or images from the internet. Download the image, open it in preview. Then copy (command-c) this image.  Right click (or the equivalent) on the folder you would like to change the image of, from the menu that appears, select get info. Click on the small icon at the top left of the folder's Get Info window, and press command-V to paste in the image that you copied from the preview image.  The image should change in both the window and where you folder is.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Google Goodness

This week I was lucky enough to visit Google in Sydney and spend time with other GCT's getting a good Google kick up the behind (aka reboot).  It had been about a year since I was last here for the Google Teachers Academy and I was ready for the fast paced learning ejection.

If you haven't checked out Google's new Google for Education site is is well worth a visit.  From tools to training to success stories, there is so much to explore.

First up Adam Naor shared insights about Chromebooks. He talked about some of the features coming up and whats next for the future of Chromebooks.  He also mentioned Microsoft Office (word, excel, powerpoint, outlook) is now in the chromestore.

Brett Morgan, a Google Developer took us through "deep thinking the Google way".
How do we design: Always come back to the problem
  • Identify the Problem
  • Decide on metrics (define success): figure out something that can be measured
  • Brainstorm solutions: come up with ideas
  • Choose a solution
  • Prototype: test with users - the user is right, not you = adaptability, keep designing until it is right for the user, not the developer!
  • Iterate: try over and over and over again and learn. Get what they build out in front of people for feedback and redesign.  
Then Sally-Ann Williams who is Google's Engineering Community & Outreach Manager, discussed the importance of computational thinking and computer science in schools.  Australia have got a new General ICT capabilities curriculum where coding should be introduced in primary school.  She talked about the future of our learners and the advantages they will have if they have coding knowledge.  Having CS + X, where computer science will be paired with x which is what you are passionate about.  Sally-Ann used the example of medicine and computer science, to cure cancer, what an advantage it will be to be able to write the computer programme (instead of waiting for someone else to). Main takeaway - coding matters!  Where does Google fit into this? They have a great resource in exploring computational thinking, with lesson, resources and how to get started.

Next Ramesh Nagarajan, a product manager on Google Drive was literally in the firing line.  He hosted a Q & A on Google Drive.  One of the first questions up was when would we be able to merge cells on a document.  We were given insights that basically equate to Google Drive becoming a lot more this space!

Tim Lee wowed us with Google Glass. He discussed ways Google Glass could be used in classrooms and how augmented reality tools such as Layar are able to interact with Google Glass.

Jenny Magiera hosted a grip jam. Using a pre-organised google doc, we were given around 4 minutes (the length of a song) to fill in the gripe column which could be any gripe we have at our school or with tools. Next, the Goo Idea - we had around 8 minutes  (the length of two songs) to fill in possible solutions to people's gripes.  +1 Collaborama was around 10 minutes (3 songs) in length and we added our contact details to the last column meaning we could be included in future communication (either to help with solutions or hear possible solutions) around this gripe.  This was a great way to collaborate and connect with people in the room and see what was on top for many. Jenny then shared her experience of running a playdate. An interesting way to run a conference where educators gather to share and just play. People Learning and Asking Y: Digital Age Technology Explorer. Read more about the conference concept and its conception.

We then moved on to hear from some people in the room. Kimberly Hall and Chris Hart shared their success with Google Educator Groups (GEG) specifically in Melbourne. These community groups are independently run by educators for educators and is a great platform for sharing.  

As the day rounded to a close, Matt Richards bought out his Oculus Rift, showing the next generation in virtual reality technology - truly mind blowing!

So the day wound up. My brain was full and it was off to laser tag, dinner and karaoke...but that is another post!

Check out the new Google for Education video: what does it mean for a classroom or school to "go google"?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A peak inside HPPS...

So what is life like at Hobsonville Point Primary School (HPPS)? It has been just over a year since I jumped on board to be part of a foundation school.  Year one was was a blur...challenge, challenge, challenge is the only way to describe it.  Team teaching, open learning spaces, working with multiple year groups, these were all new experiences in my teaching practice.
So what is year two looking like?  With more kids, more staff and a better understanding of what learning looks like at HPPS.  This year I am lucky enough to teach with the wonderful and talented Erin Hall, together with thirty year 2 - 5 (6 years - 9 years old) kids what does this look like?
I think we are already on version 10.3 of what our learning common looks/ feels like. Reflecting and being challenged on the 'why' means we are continually evolving our practice. No time to sit back and be a passenger, it is full steam ahead in Learning Common 2 (LC2).

All that we do really comes down to deep relationships. Positive relationships with students, parents, colleagues and the wider community are all vital to the success of our learners.  Shared experiences help build these relationships - for Waitangi Day, together with Hobsonville Point Secondary School, celebrated Waitangi Day with a family-friendly BBQ complete with music and entertainment from the kids.  Parent evenings are another great way to share the school's vision. We have had general evenings where parents come to have a look around to specific evenings around a certain topic/ concept (e.g. Digital Citizenship).  Each learning common also has a learning wall that documents their learning journey.  This visible learning enables parents/ caregivers to see what learning looks like and spurs on questions about what they see - further building relationships.  We also open up our common online, blogging each week with updates (LC2 Blog), planning online, ensuring transparency (LC2 planning site) and providing a supplementary learning site (LC2 Learning Site) with useful learning links.

LC2 Learning Journey Wall

Personalised Learning
Through personalising the learning (not individualised learning see personalised v differentiated individualised learning chart), students negotiate and drive what and how they learn.  Having such diverse needs within our common gives all of the us the freedoms and also structures we need to ensure we are meeting the needs of all our learners.  Our learners take control of their timetables and plan their own day/ week.  Learning is negotiated with the learner using a range of information including assessment, observations and learner passions and interests.  

So a small snapshot of life in Learning Common 2 :)